ICO Blog

Illinois College of Optometry's Official Blog

Navigation Menu

My first Academy: A quick summary of NOLA

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Blogs

Ready for our first convention

Ready for our first convention

At first, NOLA seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about our future profession, meet our future colleagues, try new technologies, and see a famous city. At second thought, two exams and one project made me second guess if I should really be going on this trip. However, if your first exam back is an optometry exam, then the best place to study is a town full of optometrists. While studying NRA/PRA during our layover in Atlanta, we ended up asking a Resident (from a different school) for his help.

Pit Stop at the AAO booth

Pit Stop at the AAO booth

Once we arrived in NOLA, the notes were set aside. We decided to try some New Orleans cuisine before attending our first Academy meeting. I had the brisket and mac and cheese, someone else tried fried gator. Throughout the trip I tried the famous beignets at Cafe Du Monde, a po’ boy, a Pig Mac, another brisket, and ribs (which were amazing.) However, you might note that I had no seafood, and as a stranger on the street told me, I was in the wrong town to eat.

The Pig Mac

The Pig Mac




After eating, we visited what we really came for: the American Academy of Optometry. We got our name tags, put on our ribbons (student, new member, first academy!) While I won’t bore you with all the details, I will share some of my memorable experiences.

Some included great sales pitches, such as when we were talking about the automatic phoropter, and the salesman said that our patient would be more impressed with this than the 200 year old manual phoropter. We also met a salesman selling a new slit lamp that was more accessible for “Americans,” a.k.a. larger people. We had to remind them that we were only second year students, and promised to come talk to them when we were looking to buy.

The Smart Vision Labs had us try out the SVOne, a smartphone-based autorefractor. We saw blue light lenses that block blue lights, and different types of trial frame lenses. I got to try 1-Day Acuvue Define (my eyes are too dark for shimmer and shine,) which made my iris look huge. I got a Cup-to-Disc Ratio guide and I got to pick some informational posters. Of course, I got a fews bags and beads (we were in New Orleans, after all.)

Free Pamphlets

Free Information Pamphlets

1-Day Acuvue Define

1-Day Acuvue Define Sample

My eyes look huge

Wearing the Define contact lenses. My eyes look huge.

Even though Saturday and Sunday were filled with cramming for optometry and trying to catch up for the upcoming week, Academy was worth the panic of studying. It was a great opportunity and a great reminder of why we are studying to become optometrists. I wish I could go into every detail of Academy, but it would be too long to write, and too long to read. My only advice is if you haven’t gone, you should start planning your trip for next year. I can’t wait to go again, and next year’s is in Anaheim (Warm weather? Yes, please!)

My ribbons and bag

My ribbons and bag

Read More

These Tots Have an Egg on Them

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in Blogs


they look small, but there is surely an entire chicken in the one on the right.

A couple weeks ago, my roommate told me something that would change my life forever: “I had thee legit best tacos in the world last night…oh, and by the way, I had tots that had an EGG on them.”

Naturally, we went there for dinner that night. She didn’t care that she had just been there less than 24 hours prior; they were THAT good. The place was called Velvet Taco, a cute joint with a simple concept: make bomb tacos. Upon arriving there, I realized the food was nothing short of velvety goodness. The tacos were eclectic and unique, and some of the ingredients sounded more complicated than the words in my anatomy textbook. I was OK with not being able to pronounce them, as long as I could taste them.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was about 10-12 rotisserie chickens spinning in perfect harmony. Apparently, the rotisserie chicken is one of their signature ingredients. I decided to give it a whirl and order their rotisserie chicken taco (which, by the way, came fully equipped with white queso.) I also got a shrimp taco, complete with crispy pepper jack cheese grits- fried together to make a popper, which I devoured shamelessly in a matter of seconds.  Can you blame me? Food this good should not be allowed to exist.

tots. with an egg.

Then came the tots (described courtesy of Velvet Taco’s menu): “crisp tots & local egg, herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado cream, bacon.” When a poor college kid is willing to pay $5.50 for some tots and a fried egg, you know they’re sumthin’ special.

And because we were not yet full enough after our taco escapade, we decided to walk to Amorino for dessert… one can always make room for gelato. Honestly, I’ve never felt more overwhelmed with choices than I did there. The person on my right shoulder told me to order the hazelnut with bits of Nutella (YES, NUTELLA) folded in it, while the person on my left shoulder told me to get the dark chocolate with dark chocolate bits. This was going on internally when the lady at the counter then told me I could get as many flavors as I wanted on one cone. ‘Nuff said.



Meanwhile, in the case chillin’ next to the gelato was a rainbow of macaroons. Was I dreaming? Pure finesse left the spatulas of these gelato artists and ended up on the cone in the shape of a flower. I was delighted to be eating something that looked as wonderful and delicate as it tasted. Next time I might order flavors depending on which color combos make the prettiest flower treat.


the fine art of “gelato-ing”

As we rolled to the CTA Green Line, we crunched the last bits of our sugar cones (which were delicious by the way) and were already planning the next time we would make another Velvet Taco/ Amorino trip. At one point, we considered pitching a tent next to Velvet Taco… but we decided that would be too weird.

These two examples barely scratch the surface of what the city of Chicago has to offer in terms of unique eats, but if you’re like me, a good taco is enough to make you want to find out.

Read More

Homecoming 2015

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in Blogs

welcomeCE signCE entrance

Homecoming is an event each Fall at the ICO campus that brings alumni and current students together. It provides an opportunity to meet future colleagues, make connections, and learn a little bit about the current hot topics of the field. The weekend-long event starts on Friday evening. This year, the ICO courtyard was turned into a Blindspot Kickoff party equipped with a photo booth, tiki bar, live music in the form of karaoke, and delicious food, of course. For the students, Friday is a great way to get warmed up to starting their weekend of networking. For the alumni, it’s a nice amp-up to the later event; 2015’s outing happened to be a White Sox baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field.

CE lecture

As an alumnus, your Saturday starts off with breakfast served at the hotel before shuttling over to the ICO campus to begin the line-up of activities. These include a 2-hour continuing education course and a Student-Alumni Mingle that takes over the gym. One of the sought after work study jobs during Homecoming is helping coordinate and assist with the Saturday night dinner cruise on the Odyssey that takes off from Navy Pier.

Fortunately, ICO has graduates all over the US and Canada, and you’re bound to find someone with similar interests that you can learn from at the Student-Alumni Mingle. Most often, there’s also a table or two with other professionals such as lawyers, company representatives, real estate associates, and practice start up and management assistants to help you get a more whole picture of aspects of optometry you probably hadn’t even thought about. Many exhibitors are also part of this event and are always eager to demonstrate their new products or talk about potential future opportunities with you; some are ICO alum themselves and are great resources for a “once school is over” perspective.

Name tags


homecoming food

After attending Homecoming, or other networking events offered, it makes me realize that networking is a skill in itself. One must learn it and practice it to be good at it. The earlier you start, the better at it you will be by the time you really need to turn to those skills- when you’re almost a doc and looking for a job… so start NOW! If you’re really ambitious, it wouldn’t hurt to start writing your CV now, either. I started mine about 6 months ago and I constantly think of stuff to add that I had forgotten about. It has become an ongoing project of mine, and not surprisingly, it will be a lot more complete by the time I need to submit it for a potential opportunity.

ICO is very fortunate to have such a geographically diverse student body. After graduation, some of us will return home, some of us will move somewhere new, and some of us will tackle a residency program. Once we start our careers and become busy with family, career and just life in general, it will be difficult to get everyone together at the same time and place. ICO Homecoming is an event that I look forward to attending as an alumnus. My circle of friends has definitely talked about the subject and agree that we will make every effort to be there.  I hope that my colleagues are having the same discussion and plan to attend.
student alumni mingle signhomecoming food 2










Student alumni mingle 2







Read More

The Trials of a Second Year Student Clinician

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 in Blogs

This year, my classmates and I are being introduced into the clinic. We get to do what we came to optometry school to do.


The rules of the game:

  • The class is broken down into two groups.
  • Each group has six clinic shifts – one each week.
  • One group gets to be in clinic for the first half of the quarter; The second group takes the second half.
  • Students work in pairs to do clinical exams on real patients.
  • They must perform the skills they know how to do.
  • The Attending Clinician will take over the rest of the exam.
  • One student takes the role of doctor, the other is the note taker.
  • The students alternate each week.

On the first day, I remember walking into my examination room with my equipment and my usual air of overconfidence. My partner, Lisa Pham, had already set up. This would end up being a common theme for our next six weeks together. Her equipment had been immaculately arranged on the desk and her suitcases put away neatly in the corner of the room, while I, in my ignorance, casually mentioned how excited I was. We decided to use Lisa’s equipment since it had already been set up; we also decided that I would be doctor.

And then, it was go time. Lisa and I met our attending, Dr. Foreman. After an introduction, she promptly and kindly handed us a patient record and sent us on our way with one direction: skip keratometry and use the patient’s lensometry reading to begin manifest.

And that was it. I don’t know what I expected, but it was pretty underwhelming.

We went to pick up our patient from the waiting room. We introduced ourselves, took her to the examination room, and then the trial by fire began.

The skills I spent first year honing were developed in a sterile environment. The people I practiced with usually gave me the answers I expected and my directions were always followed without confusion. My skills didn’t play out that way in a clinical setting. Patients who don’t know how the tests are done need clear and simple instructions, unlike my classmates who knew exactly how to respond and gave me answers I always expected. I kept my cool, but as the testing went on, my pool of confidence evaporated into a meager puddle. I began to doubt myself and my results. Then, I began to make a few mistakes, which Lisa helped me correct.

I consider manifest refraction to be one of my strong points, but I couldn’t do it that day. We had to call in Dr. Foreman to help us get through it- something I should have been able to do on my own. My confidence took a huge hit after that. Dr. Foreman was very kind and re-did the refraction herself. In short, it was embarrassing. Everyone in the room knew that I messed up.

Not wanting to repeat my experiences, I spent some time leading up to my next clinical session practicing my skills. On our third week (my second week as doctor,) things went a lot more smoothly. I was nervous during that clinic session, but the extra time spent practicing helped a lot. It turns out that I wasn’t a bad clinician; I was just rusty.

During my second week as doctor, I was able to make a difference in someone’s life. The moments leading up to it involved some doubting on the patient’s part. She knew I was a student and mentioned that I was making her vision blurry during manifest, which is a normal part of the process. I reassured her as best as I could, but felt doubt creeping back into my thoughts. Flashbacks from the first week made it a little difficult to concentrate, but once I had her final prescription and she could see clearly, she laughed, complimented my work, and said that “there’s a method to your madness.”

That moment made me realize that I’m more than just a student. It also made me realize that no matter how badly I embarrass myself, I can always turn things around- provided I get enough practice in before the next time I get a chance to try again.

I have a long way to go, but I’m still making tangible progress. It feels good. Sometimes you hit a wall and want to give up, but you have to brush it off and dedicate some time to rounding out your weaknesses. I came to ICO to learn to be a clinician, and no amount of embarrassment will stop that from happening.

I’m sure that every other optometry student experiences something similar at some point in their career. So, if you’re hitting a rough patch in clinic right now, hang in there. You can do this.

Read More

What is the best way to get around Chicago?

What is the best way to get around Chicago?

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 in Blogs

I recently made a trip to Old Town to find a quiet place to study on a Friday night. The trip itself turned out to be quite the adventure.

First, I took the Green Line at IIT/35th to Clark/Lake where I was planning on transferring to the Brown Line and get off 2 blocks from my destination. Well, I forgot the Brown Line was under construction, so there was a shuttle bus running the same route. I left the train station at Clark/Lake and walked around the block to find the shuttle, which then drove me through the Brown Line route.

I studied for a couple hours and then decided to head back. I went back to the same train station where I was originally planning on getting off of the Brown Line because I knew there was a Purple Line stop that could take me back to the Loop. I could then transfer to the Green Line and get back to IIT/35th. Well, the Purple Line only runs on the weekdays and this was a Friday night. I could have waited for the Brown Line shuttle to take me back to the Loop, but I didn’t feel like waiting; I called an Uber.

The Uber then took me to the Loop where I got into a Green Line station planning on taking it back to IIT/35th. However, at this point, it was about 1:30 a.m. The last Green Line train had already left. A CTA official told me the Green Line trains were no longer running and that if I needed to take a train South, my only option was the Red Line. I walked a couple more blocks to get to the nearest Red Line station. I then waited about 15 minutes for the next train South. At this point, it was almost 2 a.m. and I was tired and ready to be home. Eventually, the Red Line train came and I rode it to Sox/35th. I walked back to ICO, arriving around 2:30 a.m.

The point of this rant is that transportation through the city can be confusing and challenging at times. This little adventure got me thinking, “What is the best form of transportation to get around the city?” The most common ways students use are cars, trains, buses, taxis, and Uber.

Cars: If you have a car on campus, you probably won’t use it much. Parking in the city is not convenient and rush hour seems to be all day. If you are heading away from downtown, sometimes it isn’t so bad. Or, if you are making a grocery run on a weekend, it also isn’t that bad, but most of the time there are better options. The only places I have driven to since arriving here are to get food in Bridgeport and to go to Target.

Trains: The train is my personal favorite way to get around. It’s fast, reliable, convenient, and inexpensive. The downsides of the train are only that you get your occasional homeless guy asking for money, it is usually crowded, and the lines and stops can be confusing. Once I figured out the train routes, it became my fastest and most favorite way to travel. You can get on a Green Line at IIT/35th (which is two blocks East of the school) and pretty much get to anywhere you need to go in the city by transferring lines and walking a few blocks.

Buses: I don’t usually take the bus. I don’t really like it unless I am not going that far. The few times I take it are when I have extra time on the weekends and know the routes. This is because the bus stops about every block, it seems, so it can take a while. Plus, traffic gets thicker the closer to downtown you get. Also, the bus routes are MUCH more confusing, in my opinion; there are over 60 buses that all make stops at the same places. It’s easy to get on the wrong bus and end up on the other side of town if you aren’t careful. However, there is a bus stop directly outside the RC which is very convenient. Maybe over the next 4 years I’ll figure, out this system. For now, I just stick to the train or Uber.

Uber: This is by far is the most convenient way to get around regardless of where you’re going. All you do is link a credit card to the app on your phone the first time you download it, order an Uber, it comes to where you are,  you get in and tell the driver where you want to go, he drives you there, and the fare is charged to your credit card. You can even split the fare with your friends by sending them a notification via phone number through the app. The problem with this is it’s easy to get used to the convenience of Uber. Before you know it, you check your bank account and realize you’ve spent $50 on Ubers over the weekend.

Taxis: These are similar to Ubers, but they dont really come near the school unless you call and order one. I have never personally taken one while in Chicago, but I have taken them in New York City and Detroit. They are convenient if you want to go several blocks and dont feel like walking.


Everyone has their go-to way to get around the city. Some might prefer Uber, while others like the public transportation systems. Whatever you are into, Chicago has options. The more time you spend in the city, the more you understand the public transportation systems and the easier it is to get around. It can be intimidating to think about getting around the city, but in the end, everyone figures it out. Good luck!

Read More

Count down to Boo Bash

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Blogs

The Save the Date was sent out, ladies and gents, so starting planning your costumes- Boo Bash is upon us! While Boo Bash is a great way to let off some steam from studying (this year it is two weeks before finals,) it is also a great time for the whole school to come together and have some fun. And if ICOlympics didn’t prove it, our school can get into some friendly competition during the costume contest (a certain Wolverine look alike won last year.)

For anyone who is new to ICO, Boo Bash is an annual event where the entire school is invited to dress up and go out in Chicago. I should be studying for exams and trying to get ahead before Boo Bash starts, but thinking about a good costume is a welcome distraction.

While looking at photos, I came across costumes from my past. Maybe they will give some inspiration for someone (I’m thinking Teletubbies might be a good one.) I might also grab an extra costume for October 31st, because who doesn’t love trick or treating? Bonus points for eye related costumes (Worth 4 dot anyone?).







Read More